‘People-first everything’: Future 100 leaders debate the future of brands

‘People-first everything’: Future 100 leaders debate the future of brands
Future 100 (L-R): Gleeson-Landry, Randall, Lyons, Akers, and Borensztein.
The Future of Brands

Five members of the Future 100 Club attended The Future of Brands last week. Steven Scaffardi sat with them to discuss what they believe were the major talking points and what the future holds for advertisers.


Steven Scaffardi (Chair): Hello and welcome to this special round table discussion as we delve into some of the big conversations from last weeks conference. I am delighted to be joined by Claire Gleeson-Landry (Head of Investment & Sustainable Media, Good Loop), Julian Borensztein (Customer Success Account Director, Integral Ad Science), Jackie Lyons (Head of Planning at Havas Media Group), Simon Akers (Founder, Archmon) and Dave Randall (Commercial Director, Future).

So let’s get straight to it. What was your number-one key takeaway from this year’s Future of Brands events?

Julian Borensztein: Discussions about how to navigate the economic crisis was a theme in nearly every session. Deirdre McGettrick’s advice in particular stuck out – before talking with the CFO, try and speak with someone outside of marketing and see if they understand it. Effective communication will make a difference in keeping marketing budgets and brands afloat.

Jackie Lyons: People first everything. We are very much in an era of “people” driven brands, comms and media. With the way in which connect highly fragmented, brands need to be as consistently relevant to people as possible, to attract them. From brands like Coca Cola, Tesco, Giffgaff and HSCB to media owners like Pink News, the theme of “integrity and authenticity” comes through loud and clear. Not only are brand leaders giving the public the power to build their brands, but advertisers are also acknowledging the personalised demand power that consumers have too. We heard from Brompton that their customers want to buy on their own terms when its suits them, on the platforms they like or in person if it suits better. We heard from ASOS that their audiences want to watch content that is relevant and interesting to the purchase moments they are in.

Dave Randall: Marketing Mix Modelling (MMM) is a big deal!  There was notable agreement on the agility and excellence of Marketing Mix Modelling when used for holistic media planning, especially with the deprecation of the cookie. Gordon Black’s analogy was superb. Brands using MMM can think of themselves as experimental chefs. The mix is made of ingredients in a media-plan to make a cake. Once you’ve made the cake you like, you can always play with the ingredients next time around to make it taste better. 

Simon Akers: It was a great event with lots of strands and themes, and even within those plenty of debate as to be expected given the mix of panellists, especially across areas such as client/agency relationships, measurement, creative and retail media. But what came through loudest and clear was the need for big creative ideas and a solid brand platform. Everything else is really tactics and optimisation and perspective to get those messages out there, but a good insight led to a big idea of what the world needs more and have fun doing it!

Claire Gleeson-Landry: I agree. We’re working in one of the most diverse, inspiring and exciting industries in the world! I felt so uplifted by some of the sessions I watched.

Steven Scaffardi (Chair): If there was one session you would recommend people watch on catch-up on our YouTube channel, which one would it be and why?


Claire Gleeson-Landry: I loved the session The power of LGBTQIA+ representation with Pete Markey, Boots, Kendra Rogers, Outvertising and Mark Linford, VMLY&R – who doesn’t love Christmas and who doesn’t think Joy should be available for all?

Julian Borensztein: Definitely Breathing measurement into the lifeblood of brands. It’s a great conversation on essential points around media measurement: the need to determine cause and effect when talking about incrementality; the importance of quality over quantity; and the role of context when thinking about attention.

Jackie Lyons: I missed this one myself but at least 10 people at the event told me to catch up with the Henry Holland interview on YouTube- so that is my advice! I also thought Simon Moore was excellent in simply describing how attention data is being used within Dreams TV plans.

Simon Akers: So many! But the one that I’d implore people to really listen to was the CMO panel. They were fresh from a roundtable brand session of fellow brand leaders and were able to synthesise the key things keeping them, and their peers, awake at night. Getting ducks in a row to maximise agencies, balancing brand and performance, speaking the CFO language and again the right creative execution were key takeaways.

Dave Randall: Breathing measurement into the lifeblood of brands. The panel speakers have significant experience in the investment and reporting of how successful brand campaigns are managed and tracked.  The discussion ranged from the importance of Marketing Mix Modelling, how attention is integral to campaigns, addressing the impact of carbon emissions, and finally, how brands succeed.  For a snapshot of what was touched on throughout the Future of Brands event, you’d do well to watch this one back.

Steven Scaffardi (Chair): Who was your favourite speaker and why?

Jackie Lyons: My favourite had to be Sir John Hegarty, who besides arguably being the best dressed speaker of the day, he was the equivalent in experience, stature and genius to Sir Paul McCartney, when he stole the show headlining Glastonbury. He unapologetically said it how it is. He shared his disappointment in that UK, despite being a creative nation, is full of “dull” brands. (To a room full of marketers and agencies mind you. You could hear a pin drop.). He was adamant that brands must get their houses in order before they seek to align with prevalent societal issues in a disingenuous way. He remarked how brands must have a legitimate purpose, be a part of culture and above all else be exciting. We have the people and talent to deliver more creative work, and from Sir John Hegarty’s point of view, “creativity is like breathing” something we must do it as humans.

Claire Gleeson-Landry: Sophie Wheater from Giffgaff – engaging, funny, informative. She truly demonstrates her brand values.

Simon Akers: I guess, being biased as he’s a great guy, has been an advisor to me and of course an exceptional marketing leader, Pete Markey was on point as he always is. Totally real, and his session with VMLY&R was the measure of how he sees marketing and advertising. Bringing the tenets of a legacy trusted brand to the fore with great positive inclusive advertising. The joy platform just works because it is an all-in brand values first, with the inclusion part a natural by-product. Most people in the room I think felt that too.

Dave Randall: I’m going to pick two as the event was bookended brilliantly by Henry Holland and Sir John Hegarty. They were very different speakers, but both were honest, funny and had the ability to cut through the noise by focusing on brands and product.

Julian Borensztein: I’m not reinventing the wheel with this answer, so I am going to agree with Claire and Dave by saying that Sir John Hegarty’s talk was definitely a highlight. His emphasis on being interesting with our advertising really resonated with me. It is something that we have on our minds every single day.

Steven Scaffardi (Chair): What was the most inspiring/insightful/interesting comment of the day?

Simon Akers: Amongst the odd play-it-safer there were some real nice acerbic takes. Nic Kearny of Pink rightly saying that brands need to be there for LGBTQ+ communities around the year, not just around Pride. Though I reckon in the keynote Sir John Hegarty has some interesting takes. In particular, ‘if you think read or write shit, you’ll think shit, and you’ll create shit’. Spot on.

Julian Borensztein: Sir John Hegarty again: “Make the best possible product you can possibly make and that’s how you benefit society.” Like the Ted Lasso “Believe” poster, this is something that should be in many offices.

Claire Gleeson-Landry: Sophie Wheater likened becoming a B-Corp as experiencing a “long haul over some very hot coals” – this resonated cos we’ve just completed our re-certification at Good-Loop. It is a slog, but one that so worth it if you want to be held accountable. I’m now really embarrassed by my apparent obsession with Sophie!

Jackie Lyons: “None of us are as good as all of us” – Sir John Hegarty

Dave Randall: John Hegarty for me as well. “This is called the ‘Future of Brands’. Be exciting! Most brands are boring. If we can change that, we can all go home.”

Steven Scaffardi (Chair): Based on what you heard at the event, what do you predict to be the main talking point at The Future of Brands 2024?

Claire Gleeson-Landry: Diversity and inclusivity will become even more “mainstream” – both consumers and the industry expect it and there’s a brilliant opportunity to shape this country particularly whilst a culture war rages. Attention and performance metrics are one thing, but the power of advertising cannot be understated.

Julian Borensztein: History is a revolving door, so I don’t expect much to change. But I do hope economic recession is not a main talking point next year.

Jackie Lyons: I have two things that I expect to see more of next year. Firstly, I am a huge attention advocate, but I was genuinely surprised how quickly within two debates on measurement, that attention rose to the fore as a key the solution measurement challenge. Secondly, the other topic that isn’t going anywhere soon is machine learning, AI and automation. I look forward to much of the theory discussed this week being turned in to action and evidence. Both topics have a huge implication on something we heard less of on Tuesday, but circles back to Sir John Hegarty’s world, which is “creative”. Attention and automation have massive implications for the role of creative within a media model, if we want people to watch more content it must be great content. Increasingly media agencies will have a role in consulting and designing for relevance.

Simon Akers: Who knows! We have a new trend every year, though the current AI one does seem pervasive and will be interesting to hear takes on ‘how it affected/elevate brands’ in the last 12 months. I am sceptical though. Also, I sat in a couple of measurement and retail media debates. The former is just the perennial thing I always expect more hot takes/uncertainty on, the latter being relatively embryonic in its definition and hoping to see some better use cases/wider scope. But again, who really knows?

Dave Randall: AI was referenced throughout the event but there was a lack of predictions on how AI will change the industry.  As AI and machine learning applications advance, I would expect it to dominate the proceedings of next year’s event.

Media Jobs